As if parents didn’t already have enough to worry about with COVID-19 still going around and flu season quickly approaching, there’s a third virus currently sweeping the nation – respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – and it’s targeting infants less than six months old at an alarming rate.
In a healthy adult, RSV usually results in mild cold-like symptoms and doesn’t present any immediate danger. That danger, however, is escalated for infants, older individuals, and those with weakened immune systems. If not treated in a timely manner, the virus can be deadly.
Today, cases are rising and pediatric hospitals are filling up as the virus continues to spread from one child to the next. Alongside COVID-19 and the flu, many people are dubbing the surge in RSV cases a ‘tridemic’ – and one that’s only going to get worse in the coming months.
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One Ohio mother, who is no stranger to RSV and how it can impact a child’s health, is opening up about her experience watching two of her children struggle with the condition. She was first blindsided by RSV six years ago when her son, Adam, was diagnosed with it at six weeks old.
“I didn’t really know the danger (Adam) was in because of his age,” said Shanisty Ireland in an interview with TODAY. She knew to take him to the hospital when she realized how poor his breathing was – later learning that he had RSV, bronchitis, rhinovirus, ear infections, and more.
Now six years later, she was forced to go through the motions once again when her newest son, 2-month-old Asa, started to experience cold-like symptoms. This was around the same time local hospitals were filling up with infants and young children, mostly due to RSV infection.
“I could tell his ribs were contracting. I saw a V underneath his neck that showed he was really labored, and his head was bobbing every time he was trying to breathe. It was a big struggle for him to get a breath of air,” said Ireland, adding how ‘terrifying’ it was and how ‘helpless’ she felt.
“If you’ve seen a child in that kind of distress with that labored breathing, it’s the most terrifying thing as a parent because you’re completely helpless. You have no idea what to do,” she added.
How to Reduce the Spread of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection
According to the CDC, respiratory syncytial virus infection impacts more than two million children under the age of 5 every year – 58,000 of which require hospitalization. It also sends more than 175,000 adults over the age of 65 to the hospital, 14,000 of which die as a result.
What hospitals are seeing right now is a rising surge of RSV cases among infants. While we normally see an uptick in cases during the winter, what we’re experiencing today is much earlier than what we’re used to seeing and it’s causing hospitals to operate above capacity, yet again.
Some of the most common signs of RSV in an infant include labored breathing, wheezing, nostrils flaring out while breathing, difficulty waking up, lack of attention span, irritability, frequent crying, poor feeding, and low appetite. If you notice these signs in your child, seek medical help.
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While there’s no vaccine or cure for the respiratory syncytial virus, you can reduce the spread and prevent infection by covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with others, cleaning surrounding surfaces, and being mindful.
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